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CHAPKINES v. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

February 25, 2004.

GEORGE CHAPKINES, Plaintiff, -against- NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, ET AL., Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KEVIN FOX, Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff George Chapkines ("Chapkines"), proceeding pro se, brings this action against New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies ("NYU"), David F. Finney ("Finney"), Dean, Perry Greene ("Greene"), Associate Dean, Mary Silver ("Silver"), Director, Maxine Gerson ("Gerson"), Associate Director, Katherine Hyde ("Hyde"), Assistant Director, Cynthia Negron ("Negron"), Program Coordinator, Jean McMahon ("McMahon"), Administrative Assistant, Jane Doe Number 1 and Jane Doe Number 2 (collectively "defendants").*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that the defendants discriminated against him unlawfully when they terminated his employment because of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., the New York Human Rights Law Page 2 ("NYHRL"), N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(6), and the New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"), New York City Administrative Code § 8-107(6).

  Before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss, made pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The defendants urge that all claims asserted by the plaintiff against the individual defendants be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.*fn2 Additionally, the defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff's claims for liquidated damages, punitive damages and attorney's fees. Plaintiff opposes the motion; it is addressed below.

  II. BACKGROUND

  Chapkines was employed by NYU as an adjunct professor from October 1979 until December 2000. During this period, a total of 43 semesters, Chapkines taught a variety of business and accounting courses. Chapkines contends that, while he was employed at NYU, his performance ratings as a teacher always ranged from "very good" to "excellent," and that teaching evaluations submitted by his students invariably included many favorable comments.

  On December 4, 2000, Chapkines was told by Hyde that his employment had been terminated because he had received poor student evaluations. Chapkines asserts that, after speaking with Hyde, he requested and received copies of the evaluations in question. Chapkines discovered that the evaluations showed that he had received positive ratings overall, specifically, a cumulative score of 4.73 out of a possible 5. Page 3

  Thereafter, according to Chapkines, he was given a different explanation for the decision to terminate his employment and was told that "student evaluations [were] not the issue." Specifically, Chapkines was told that the reasons for his termination were: (i) two students had complained about a remark made by Chapkines during class which was characterized by NYU as "inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature," (ii) he had refused to cooperate with administrative policies and procedures, that is, he had refused to complete a "Form I-9," which was required by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, (iii) he had displayed rude behavior toward NYU staff, and (iv) he was inaccessible, that is, difficult to reach by telephone because he had no answering machine or voice mail.

 Allegation of Inappropriate Behavior

  Chapkines states that the incident which allegedly prompted complaints of "inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature" occurred at the beginning of the first session of a class Chapkines taught in the Fall 2000 semester. According to Chapkines, in the opening minutes of the class, he wrote his name and his home and school telephone numbers on the chalk board so that the students could contact him during the coming weeks if they had questions concerning their homework. Chapkines states that he then said, jokingly, "but this number is just for the girls in the class," and, a moment later, added "just kidding." Chapkines avers that the students laughed and that the remark was a "simple attempt at humor to get the students relaxed [] on the first day of class."

  Chapkines states that Hyde later informed him that two students had complained about his remark and had dropped the course. Chapkines claims that he has no recollection of any student dropping the course and that Hyde refused to provide him with the names of the students Page 4 in question, citing confidentiality. Chapkines contends that in an NYU position statement, dated June 20, 2001, Hyde stated that "[t]he University's decision [to terminate plaintiff's employment] was based upon Mr. Chapkines' breach of the University's sexual harassment policies and procedures."*fn3 In the same statement, Chapkines avers, Negron stated that she "[considered] such behavior to be a violation of the University's sexual harassment policy."

 Allegation of Refusal to Cooperate

  Plaintiff states that, on May 8, 2000, he went to the midtown campus of NYU and asked to speak to Silver. Plaintiff avers that he told Silver that the purpose of his visit was to submit a Form I-9 and that he gave her his United States passport, whereupon she copied what she required and returned the passport to him. Chapkines maintains that she then attached the supporting documents to the signed and dated Form I-9 that he had given her.

  According to Chapkines, Hyde, Negron and counsel for the defendants all stated in NYU's position statement of June 20, 2001, that Chapkines had refused to complete a Form I-9. Chapkines asserts that these are "outright misstatements" and that his Form I-9 had been submitted 13 months earlier, in May 2000. Chapkines asserts that Silver was aware that he had submitted the form previously, yet failed to speak out and clarify the situation, thus lending "legitimacy" to the erroneous statements made by Hyde, Negron and counsel for the defendants. Page 5 In ...


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